Anyone who takes these books to heart will wonder whether we are in a situation ominously similar to that of 1935, when the menace of Hitler’s Germany left the bulk of Britain’s and America’s politicians completely unperturbed. In one way we are worse off: at least during the Thirties there was Winston Churchill, with the necessary stature and persistence to go on crying wolf. Now not one figure in our political establishment dares utter a word. Even after killing Litvinenko and shamelessly leaving a trail of radioactivity across London, Putin’s men have total impunity: a Russian hospital nurse might be refused a visa by the British Consulate, lest she seek work in the NHS, but an FSB killer – never. Our cowardly politicians’ main mistake is to assume (as does Gordon Hahn in his book) that we have only one enemy – Islamic terrorism – and can therefore ignore Russia’s reversion to brutal and totally corrupt autocracy. In any case, a demonstration of moral courage might force our government to look for other sources of gas and oil.
Anna Politkovskaya’s previous book, Putin’s Russia, is very similar to her A Russian Diary. Like other reviewers, I was struck by horror when she published that earlier book, fairly sure that she would pay the highest possible price for writing it. The posthumous Diary is perhaps even less of a